Posts Tagged With: Wicca
Witchcraft 101: Integrity… Making that choice! (part 4)
Since its inception, the Witches’ Voice, has been barraged with email asking the simple question… “How do I become a Witch”? Although, it has never been the mission of the Witches’ Voice to actually teach Witchcraft we find ourselves constantly shocked at the aweful responses the Teenage Witch or new seeker receives from many that “claim” themselves “elders” of the craft. For this we apologize. We will never preach or claim to “have the answer”.There are indeed many paths and many ways, it is our goal to give you the tools to get started and what to look out for.
Integrity: Making a Commitment
What? Are YOU Still Here?
You have probably noticed -astute students that you are!- that I have made little mention of the Gods and Goddesses in this series. In fact, early on I cautioned you to NOT make a commitment to the Old Ones just yet. There is a real reason for this and it is now time to discuss it.
There has been a small but insistent clamor lately from those who wonder why no one is teaching the “deeper” things of the Craft. The first reason is that these are difficult issues to write about. The second reason is that they are even more difficult to actually work through. And the third reason? (I’m Celtic-I think in threes!) These are the issues that will determine if Witchcraft is really the religion for you.
You may think that you are sure already. “Of course, Witchcraft is for me! Why would I have been studying this for a year and a day if I didn’t think this was my Path?”, you may exclaim. Well, hold off on that impassioned vow. A few more moments will not make a difference…or will it?
What you have been DOING so far is studying and practicing. What you have been LEARNING is what all this study and practice means to YOU. You have been forming your own sense of…
What is “Integrity”? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “integrity” means “The condition of having no part or element taken away or wanting; undivided or unbroken state; material wholeness; completeness; entirety.” Or better still, “The condition of not being marred or violated; unimpaired or uncorrupted; a condition of soundness.”
That is what you have been learning to do in the previous lessons. You have been doing exercises that have helped you to form your own ‘faculty of judgment’, your own ‘condition of soundness’. You have been working on building your personal integrity. You have to know what it is that you believe before you can make a decision on what is right or wrong for you.
Many problems that now exist in the Pagan community would probably never have come about if more people had taken the time and made the honest effort to find out if Witchcraft really was for them BEFORE they made a commitment to it. Instead they find themselves in situations where they are forced to either, 1. admit that they made a wrong choice, or 2. try to change the religion to fit them. Instead of Witchcraft transforming them, some attempt to transform Witchcraft to suit their particular needs and desires. They are ‘continually re-inventing’ Witchcraft and Wicca to suit themselves!
“A PROMISE IS A PROMISE“…
If you have decided that Wicca is your religion of choice, you have committed yourself to following its basic principles. One of these principles is, of course, the Rede. If you are promising to abide by the precepts of “And It Harm None..”, have you worked out what you would do if someone attacked you? Attacked your child? Does “harm none” mean you should become a vegetarian? Do you think that it is even possible to “harm none?” Well, that is what you are promising to do, isn’t it?
Traditional Witchcraft may not have a “Rede” of its own, but Witches were known as the “Wise Ones” for a good reason. They were respected. They were fair. They were healers. They helped the community. They changed things. They made good decisions. They didn’t promise what they could not deliver and they delivered what they promised. It is still the same today.
Too often folks make a promise in haste and then spend countless hours justifying why they had to break that promise “just this once” because of “conditions beyond their control.” They have their reasons-lots and lots of reasons. Truth is, they just didn’t give enough thought to their commitment BEFORE they made it. If you haven’t given serious thought and reflection to both the results and obligations contained within a promise, do not make one! And most certainly not to the Gods…
“If someone turned your body over to just any person who happened to meet you, you would be angry. But are you not ashamed that you turn over your own FACULTY OF JUDGMENT to whoever happens along…’-Epictetus
INTEGRITY REQUIRES THREE THINGS:
1. The ability to discern what is right and what is wrong.
This requires reflection, time and effort. It is a difficult process but one which cannot be avoided by anyone who truly wants to be a spiritual person. How much easier it is to find someone else to tell us what to do, what to read, what to think and how to act! But then, who would actually be living your life? Who would be in control? Who is pulling the strings? If you don’t think that you would enjoy being a puppet, then you simply must find out where your limits are, what you believe to be correct behavior and what you yourself are willing-and unwilling- to do.
Whether there is an “absolute” right or wrong is something that theologians and philosophers have been wrangling with for centuries. In fact the very thought that they could be wrong keeps many people from being willing to take a stand on anything at all!
The possibility that you may be wrong is lessened by careful study, investigation and thought. Of course, you may be honest about a belief. Later you may find out that you were honestly wrong! However, approaching each subject with an open mind; examining all the possibilities, answering all the ‘what ifs” will help you sort this out. Make no mistake about it, this is the most difficult process that you will ever undertake.
Most people and societies do agree that some things are just “more” right than others. (See “Teachers and Magickal Ethics” You need to find out the measure of your own “rightness quotient”. You need to do the work of creating your personal code of behavior and ethics. Then you can hold that as a standard for decisions on what religion, what group or what Path is correct for you. And you thought that just finding a coven was hard! Finding the right coven, the right place, the right religion can change your life for the better. The wrong choice can be devastating.
If you have not done this work, then you are basically leaving yourself open to follow anything or anyone -and to do anything that they tell you. Witchcraft and Wicca are religions of personal power and responsibility. If you are not willing to do the work of discernment and introspection-to formulate a set of integrated values for yourself-then Witchcraft and Wicca are probably not for you.
INTEGRITY MEANS DOING THE RIGHT THING:
2. Acting on what you have discerned even at personal cost.
Suppose the teacher that you have been studying with begins to introduce issues or behaviors that you just don’t feel are “right’. Suppose that you now find that having sexual relations are a part of this group’s workings? What if suddenly this loving coven wants you to do a death spell against someone who has given another covenmate a hard time? What about that “harm none’ thing? What if you do not want to participate in this activity? But what if, by refusing to participate, you can no longer be part of this group? What will you do?
You may have put a lot of time and effort into a group. You may have even been initiated or attained a degree. These people are your friends-maybe you even think of them as your ‘family.” Now you face losing all this and starting over. The group may say bad things about you if you leave. You may lose your friends and their support. You have to decide- do you stay and compromise your own code of right and wrong? Do you leave? Where is your soundness, your faculty of judgment, your integrity now?
The truth is that most of us cannot say whether we really possess integrity until we are tested on it. Doing what we believe to be right-determined by the hard work of reflective discernment-even when it becomes personally painful tells us if we indeed have it or not. Didn’t I tell you that there is ALWAYS a test? This is one. There will be others. Get used to it. Witchcraft and Wicca are religions that require that we as Witches and Wiccans are equal to the challenges that life brings our way. If you can easily compromise your ethical principles or can turn your back to what you know to be right action, then Witchcraft and Wicca are not for you.
INTEGRITY MEANS KEEPING YOUR COMMITMENTS:
3. You openly declare where you stand.
Now we finally get to the Gods and the Goddesses! Do you still think that you are prepared to stand before Them and pledge your life, your heart and your hands to Their service? For that is what the religion of Witchcraft and Wicca are all about-SERVICE.
- It is not about gaining power-although that will certainly be a part of your magickal life! It is about enabling others to learn ways to empower themselves.
- It is not about “getting more” for you-although you will benefit in untold ways. It is about “giving more” to others in Their Name.
- It is not about changing others to suit or cater to you-although others will find you nice to be around! It is about changing yourself, so that you are better equipped to do the work of the Old Ones on this Earth.
- It is not about fame-although others will seek you out. It is about being available to help those in need.
- It is not about pulling others down-although what is not working will fall before you. It is about building others up and creating new and healthy systems.
- It is not about financial wealth-although you will always feel “rich!” It is about sharing what you have with the rest of the community.
- It is about keeping promises, going the extra mile, doing what is correct and for the good of all. It is about uprightness, honor, truth, healing, giving and service.
It is above all holding high the Names of the Old Ones, keeping to their Ways, honoring all Their children, caring for the Earth and being committed to carrying out whatever tasks that They have set upon you to do. It is about Integrity-Theirs, yours, ours.
The Importance of Basic Techniques
Since I began earnestly looking into Wicca and magickal practices, some of the most emphasized concepts were visualization and psychic hygiene. And, as I think about this now, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t emphasize them. Much of my own successful magick has been worked with strong visualization of my goal, and I’ve had many a worthwhile meditation session with strong visualization of where I was going, whether I was dancing through a forest in the astral or finding a cave in a waterfall with a shrine to Brigit. Along with that, psychic cleansing and grounding cannot be stressed enough in magickal and ritual working. I know I’ve had many a time when I’ve tried to work some kind of magick or focus in a ritual when I managed to cleanse myself beforehand, and I found that that time I took before and after to cleanse myself of excess energies would often make all the difference in how successful I was in my work.
So where am I going with this? These are all basic techniques that all Wiccans, Pagans and other Earth-based spiritualities hopefully come to in their magickal and ritual workings. These two concepts of visualization and cleansing (along with psychic shielding, which I’ll get to later) were things I drilled into my head before I started doing my magickal workings. They’re some of the most important things a Pagan learns, depending on the tradition. These days, even before I do something as simple as yoga practice, I cleanse myself of excess energy because it’s become such a habit. And I feel it’s a good habit to get into, if only because of my experience of how cleansing and visualization helps me in my life.
However, just a couple months ago, I had an encounter that reinforced the importance of these basic techniques, and, having been granted permission from the friend I shared this experience with, I’d like to share it with you.
Towards the end of my January term at college, I invited my friend Max over to my dorm room, ostensibly to show him a fun video game I thought he might like. I met Max just last semester through our Taiko drumming group here at St. Olaf, and we hit it off immediately. Both of us were from the Twin Cities areas, both of us were involved in marching band in high school, and both of us were interested in spirituality and Mind-Body-Spirit. In fact, Max is a member of the Mind-Body-Spirit organization here at school, and he not only practices Qi Gong but is also interested in studying herbalism and Chinese medicine after graduation.
I should make one thing clear before I go any further: Max is not Pagan. Despite his considerable knowledge of new age techniques and spirituality in general, he tends to relate more to Asian religions and philosophies than to Wicca or Pagan religions. However, he understands a good deal about Paganism and Wicca and has shown great respect for them, enough that I never have any trouble talking to him about it. Despite our rather huge age gap (I’m about to graduate while he’s just finishing his freshman year) , we’ve become good friends.
So, back to the story!
After I’d shown Max the video game, we got to talking about a variety of topics, eventually coming to Max’s Qi Gong class. At this point, he mentioned an exercise they had done in class, something that he hadn’t been able to replicate outside of his class. I asked him to describe what the exercise was. As soon as he did, I remember doing the same exercise myself, and I’m sure many of you will also remember trying this exercise at some point. Max had his hands apart and was trying to project his energy into his hands to create a ball of energy and even make that ball grow. However, without his teacher’s guidance, he hadn’t been able to feel that ball of energy when he tried the exercise outside of class.
Recognizing the exercise, I asked Max if he had tried visualizing the ball of energy between his hands. This was something he hadn’t considered, so I took him through the exercise again as I knew it. Now, I didn’t try to re-explain the exercise entirely, because he already knew it. Instead, I explained to him how, when I tried it, I visualized a bluish-purple ball of light forming in my hands. While the ball wasn’t visible to my naked eye, I knew the ball was there and visualized it as strongly as I could. Max tried the same thing, and he finally understood what I was talking about. He was finally able to replicate the exercise the way he had felt it during class.
So why did Max have trouble with the exercise before he tried it with me? It’s not because of my teaching skills (I honestly doubt I’ve explained the exercise to you properly) . It was because he hadn’t tried to visualize the ball of energy there before. As spiritually and psychically capable as Max is (even more so than I am) , without that visualization, I doubt he would’ve been able to get the same result. It’s not enough the just project the energy into the space between your hands and hope it works. Visualizing the ball of energy, no matter what it looks like or feels like to the individual, is an important step to the success of that energy. I don’t mean to sound preachy or anything like that, but, just speaking from personal experience and from working with Max on this, visualization is an extremely important skill in magick and meditative work. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Pagan or not.
So after having success with that exercise in energy play, Max and I began to talk more about visualization in psychic and meditative techniques. Eventually, he mentioned how he always felt like he had so much energy. Now, Max’s energetic and enthusiastic nature is definitely one of his strong points. In my opinion, it’s made him very strong in Taiko drumming. However, there are many times when Max has too much energy or puts too much energy into his playing, so much so that he often gets asked to back off a little bit when playing so that he doesn’t go overboard. Hearing him say that he didn’t know how to get rid of the excess energy, a thought occurred to me. It reminded me of a YouTube video I’d watched when I was first getting into Wicca that was my introduction to the basics, and, after explaining to him, we decided to watch it.
The video is called Wicca First Degree course Lesson 1 Exercises and the video itself is presented and narrated by Reverend Donald Lewis-Highcorrell of the Correllian tradition of Wicca, who also authored the Witch School series of books. For those of you who haven’t seen this or any of his YouTube videos (which I believe are excerpts from the Witch School DVDs) , even if you don’t consider yourself a Wiccan, I encourage you to check them out. They’re extremely informative, and I often find they’re a valuable resource in magickal practice. If you have the time, please give them a look. Anyways, in this particular video, Reverend Donald introduces the viewer to exercises in psychic cleansing or grounding and psychic shielding. For the purposes of this story, I’m going to focus on the cleansing exercise, as this directly relates to Max’s situation with excess energy.
In the video, Reverend Donald, with the help of some beautiful animations, gives the viewer examples of how to visualize this cleansing, talking them through a visualization of a column of pure white light moving through the body and letting the excess energy flow out of the body with the white light. As an alternative to this, he also describes another visualization of a river flowing through the body and the excess energy as detritus such as twigs and leaves that flow out of the body with the river. These are the two he finds works the best, but he encourages the viewer to find a visualization that works for them. After this point in the video, Max and I having done the exercise along with the video, I paused it and asked Max how he felt. He told me he felt a lot better, not having that excess energy in his body, and we began to once again discuss the power of visualization and these basic techniques and how important they are for anyone attempting psychic or meditative work.
But why am I telling you about all of this? Why did I even bother going into all of that?
Well, that discussion and practice with Max served as a reminder, for me at least, of how important those basic techniques are. It doesn’t matter whether you are a devout Pagan or are simply interested in new age philosophy and practice. Visualization and cleansing, along with other basic techniques, play a key role in all psychic, meditative, ritual and magickal work. And I feel that sometimes we forget how important and integral these basic techniques are. Plus, I see it as an example of the power of these techniques even when used by those who don’t practice a Pagan faith. The fact that these techniques worked as well for Max as they did for me is something I find fascinating, and it’s something I wanted to share. After all, there’s something to learn from every experience, no matter how trivial or groundbreaking, whether it’s your own experience or that of someone else.
Thank you for hearing me out on this, and, for your own future workings, I wish you an enthusiastic Blessed Be! ^_^
“Wicca First Degree course Lesson 1 Exercises” by user MagickTV, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQRyIYr3DZM
Basic Principles and Concepts of Wicca
By Patti Wigington, About.com
There’s an old saying that if you ask any ten Wiccans about their religion, you’ll get at least fifteen different answers. That’s not far from the truth, because with nearly half a million Americans practicing Wicca today, there are dozens — perhaps even hundreds — of different Wiccan groups out there. There is no one governing body over Wicca, nor is there a “Bible” that lays down a universal set of guidelines. While specifics vary from one tradition to the next, there are actually a few ideals and beliefs common to nearly all modern Wiccan groups.
Do keep in mind that this article is primarily focused on Wiccan traditions, rather than on the principles of non-Wiccan Pagan belief systems. Not all Pagans are Wiccans, and not all Pagan traditions have the same set of principles as the core beliefs of modern Wicca.
Origins of Wicca:
Wicca as a religion was introduced by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s. Gardner’s tradition was oathbound, initiatory, and secret. However, after a few years splinter groups began forming, and new traditions were formed. Today, many Wiccan groups owe their basic foundation to the principles laid out by Gardner. Wicca is not an ancient religion, but Gardner did incorporate some old esoteric knowledge into his original tradition, including Eastern mysticism, Kabballah, and British legend.
Who Is a Wiccan, and How Do You Find Them?:
Wiccans come from all walks of life. They are doctors and nurses, teachers and soccer moms, writers and firefighters, waitresses and computer programmers. In other words, anyone can be Wiccan, and people become Wiccan for many reasons. In fact, there are nearly half a million Wiccans in the United States today. As to where to find them, that might take a bit of digging — as a mystery religion that doesn’t proselytize or actively recruit, it can sometimes be difficult to find a group in your area. Never fear, though — the Wiccans are out there, and if you ask around enough, you’ll bump into one eventually.
Calling Upon the Divine:
Wicca acknowledges the polarity of the Divine, which means that both the male and female deities are often honored. A Wiccan may honor simply a non-specific god and goddess, or they may choose to worship specific deities of their tradition, whether it be Isis and Osiris, Cerridwen and Herne, or Apollo and Athena. In Gardnerian Wicca, the true names of the gods are revealed only to initiated members, and are kept secret from anyone outside the tradition.
Initiation and Degree Systems:
In most Wiccan covens, there is some form of initiation and a degree system. Initiation is a symbolic rebirth, in which the initiant dedicates themselves to the gods of their tradition. Typically, only an individual who has attained the rank of Third Degree dedicant may act as a High Priest or High Priestess. Study is required before an individual may advance to the next degree level, and often this is the traditional “year and a day” period.
Someone who is not a member of a coven or formal group may choose to perform a self-dedication ritual to pledge themselves to the gods of their path.
The belief in and use of magic and spellwork is nearly universal within Wicca. This is because for most Wiccans, there’s nothing supernatural about magic at all — it’s the harnessing and redirection of natural energy to effect change in the world around us. In Wicca, magic is simply another skill set or tool. Most Wiccans do use specific tools in spellcrafting, such as an athame, wand, herbs, crystals, and candles. Magical workings are often performed within a sacred circle. The use of magic is not limited only to the priesthood — anyone can craft and perform a spell with a little bit of practice.
The Spirit World is Out There:
Because the concept of an afterlife of some sort is typical in most branches of Wicca, there is a general willingness to accept interaction with the spirit world. Seances and contact with the unknown are not uncommon among Wiccans, although not all Wiccans actively seek communication with the dead. Divination such as tarot, runes, and astrology are often used as well.
What Wicca Isn’t:
Wicca does not embrace the concepts of sin, heaven or hell, the evils of sex or nudity, confession, Satanism, animal sacrifice, or the inferiority of women. Wicca is not a fashion statement, and you do not have to dress a certain way to be a “real Wiccan.”
Basic Beliefs of Wicca:
While not exclusive to every single tradition, the following are some of the core tenets found in most Wiccan systems:
- The Divine is present in nature, and so nature should be honored and respected. Everything from animals and plants to trees and rocks are elements of the sacred. You’ll find that many practicing Wiccans are passionate about the environment.
- The idea of karma and an afterlife is a valid one. What we do in this lifetime will be revisited upon us in the next. Part of this idea of a cosmic payback system is echoed in the Law of Threefold Return.
- Our ancestors should be spoken of with honor. Because it’s not considered out of the ordinary to commune with the spirit world, many Wiccans feel that their ancestors are watching over them at all times.
- The Divine has polarity — both male and female. In most paths of Wicca, both a god and goddess are honored.
- The Divine is present in all of us. We are all sacred beings, and interaction with the gods is not limited just to the priesthood or a select group of individuals.
- Holidays are based on the turning of the earth and the cycle of the seasons. In Wicca, eight major Sabbats are celebrated, as well as monthly Esbats.
- Everyone is responsible for their own actions. Personal responsiblity is the key. Whether magical or mundane, one must be willing to accept the consquences — either good or bad — of their behaviour.
- Harm none, or something like it. While there are a few different interpretation of what actually constitutes harm, most Wiccans follow the concept that no harm should intentionally be done to another individual.
- Respect the beliefs of others. There’s no Recruiting Club in Wicca, and the Wiccans are not out to preach at you, convert you, or prosetylize. Wiccan groups recognize that each individual must find their spiritual path on their own, without coercion. While a Wiccan may honor different gods than you do, they will always respect your right to believe differently.
Let’s Talk Witch – Energy Play
The energy and magical powers at work in Wicca are real. They aren’t of some astral plane. They’re within the Earth and ourselves. They maintain life. We daily deplete our store of energy and replenish it through the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the powers that stream down from the Sun and Moon.
Know that this power is physical. Yes, it’s mysterious, but only because so few investigate it in magical ways. Following are some exercises to help you do just that.
Calm yourself. Breathe deeply. Rub your palms together for twenty seconds. Start slowly and rub faster and faster. Feel your muscles tense. Feel your palms grow warm. Then, suddenly, stop and hold your palms about two inches from each other. Feel them tingling? That’s a manifestation of power. By rubbing your palms together and using the muscles in your arms and shoulders you’re raising energy-magical power. It’s flowing out from your palms as you hold them apart.
If you don’t feel anything, practice this once or twice a day until you have success. Remember, don’t force yourself to feel the power. Trying harder won’t accomplish anything. Relax and allow yourself to feel what’s been there all the time.
After you’ve actually sensed this energy, begin to fashion it into shapes. Use your visualization to do this. Directly after rubbing your hands, while they’re still tingling, visualize jolts of energy-perhaps electric blue or purple-passing from your right (projective) palm to your left (receptive) palm. If you’re left-handed, reverse the directions.
Now envision this energy slowly swirling in a clockwise direction between your palms. Form it into a ball of glowing, pulsating magical energy. See its dimensions, its colors. Feel its force and heat in your palms. This is a bit of energy which you’ve released from your body. There’s nothing supernatural about it. Cup your hands around the ball. Make it grow or decrease in size through your visualization. Finally push it into your stomach and absorb it back into your system.
This is not only great fun but is a valuable magical learning experience. When you’ve mastered the art of energy spheres, go onto feel energy fields.
Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner
When people first discover Paganism or Wicca, they often rush to go buy every single magical tool they can find. After all, the books tell us to buy this, that, and the kitchen sink, so you better hustle on over to Ye Local Witchy Shoppe and get stuff!
But once you get it, what do you DO with it?
It is important to understand that magical tools have an actual purpose, before you go out and grab one. Tools are often representative of one of the four classical elements, which may help you select the tool you need for your purpose.
Most Wiccan and Pagan traditions use the following tools in some capacity.
1. The Wand
Clichéd as it may sound, the wand is one of the most popular magical tools in Wicca, as well as in some ceremonial magic traditions. It has a number of magical purposes. A wand is used for the directing of energy during a ritual. Because it’s a phallic symbol it is used to represent male energy, power, and virility. Representative of the element of Air (although in a few traditions it symbolizes Fire), the wand can be used to consecrate a sacred space, or invoke deity.
The cauldron is a symbol of the Goddess, and it’s all about femininity. The cauldron is the womb in which life begins. Although it usually represents the element Water, the cauldron is an interesting tool because it can tie in to all four elements. You place it upon the Earth, heat it with Fire, fill it with Water, and send the steam up into the Air. In Celtic legend, the goddess Cerridwen possessed a cauldron of immortality and inspiration.
In some traditions, a cup or chalice is used in place of a cauldron, and in others the cauldron and cup are used together. A cup is just a small cauldron, and can be made of any material.
Often referred to as the athame (pronounced a-tha-may) in Wiccan traditions, the magic knife is not used for cutting but for the directing of energy and manipulation of power. In some branches of Paganism, a sword is used in place of the athame. The traditional athame is double-edged and although the tip is usually pointed, the edges of the blade are often dull. After all, it’s a ceremonial knife rather than a practical one. Commonly linked with the element Fire, the athame is a phallic symbol and is often used to represent the God. The athame is used for casting a circle or for the direction of energy.
Nearly every tradition of Wicca (and many Pagan paths) uses the pentacle as a symbol. Not to be confused with the pentagram (a five-pointed star), the pentacle is a flat piece of wood, metal, clay, or wax inscribed with magical symbols. The most commonly seen symbol, however, is the pentagram itself, which is why the two terms are often confused.
In ceremonial magic, the pentacle is used as a protective talisman. However, in most Wiccan traditions it is seen as representative of the element of Earth, and can be used on the altar as a place to hold items that are going to be ritually consecrated. You can make your own, or buy one commercially.
While it comes in handy during a good game of Quidditch, the broom – or besom – is also useful for sweeping a ceremonial area out before ritual. A light sweeping not only cleans the physical space, it also clears out negative energies that may have accumulated in the area since the last cleaning. The broom is a purifier, so it is connected to the element of Water. It is not uncommon to meet witches who have broom collections, and it is fairly easy to make your own besom if you dont wish to buy one. The traditional magical formula includes a bundle of birch twigs, a staff of ash or oak, and a binding made from willow wands.
In the Catholic church, it’s not uncommon to see a priest swinging a censer full of incense during mass. In Wicca, the censer is used in a similar fashion. The censer is used to hold smoldering incense during a ritual or ceremony. It can either swing from a chain or sit on a table. The censer doesn’t have to be fancy or high-tech or expensive. A bowl of sand, a seashell, a small plate, or a cup of salt will hold your incense just fine. In most Wiccan traditions, the incense represents Air, and can be burned in the form of sticks, cones, or raw materials placed upon a disc of charcoal.
Hundreds of years ago, rural folks knew that loud noise drove away evil spirits, and the bell is a prime example of a good noisemaker. The ringing of a bell causes vibrations which are the source of great power. Variations on the bell include the shaking of a sistrum, a ritual rattle, or the use of a singing bowl. All of these can help bring harmony to a magical circle. In some forms of Wicca, the bell is rung to begin or end a rite, or to evoke the Goddess.
No Wiccan ceremony really feels complete without the use of candles. In some traditions, a candle is used to represent the God and another used for the Goddess. In others, a candle is simply used to indicate the element of Fire. Candles are often a tool in sympathetic magic rites, and can be used to symbolize people, concepts, and emotions. A simple candle magic spell involves selecting a candle based upon color correspondences, then inscribing it with sigils and anointing it with the appropriate oil.
9. Book of Shadows (BOS)
Despite popular movies and television shows, there is no one single book of shadows. A book of shadows, or BOS, is a Wiccan or Pagan’s notebook of information. It usually contains spells, rituals, correspondence charts, information about the rules of magic, invocations, myths and legends of various pantheons, etc. Sometimes information in a BOS is passed along from one Wiccan to another (and in a coven setting, there may be a coven BOS as well as individual members’ books), but you can create your own with a little bit of effort. A BOS is a very personal thing, and should contain the information you find most important.
Do Pagan Religions Have Rules?
By Patti Wigington, About.com
Question: Do Pagan Religions Have Rules?
I read a book on Wicca that says “all Wiccans must do this and never do that,” and then I read another one that said Pagans can make their own rules. Some people believe in the Threefold Law, and others don’t. Others say that the Wiccan Rede is only for Wiccans but not other Pagans. What’s going on here? Are there rules in Pagan religions like Wicca, or not?
The word “rules” can be a puzzling one, because while there are guidelines, they do tend to vary from one tradition to another. In general, most Pagans – including Wiccans – follow some set of rules that is unique to their own tradition – however, it’s important to note that these standards are not universal. In other words, what Group A holds true as law cannot be applied towards Group B.
The Wiccan Rede
Many groups, particularly NeoWiccan ones, follow one form or another of the Wiccan Rede, which says, “An’ it harm none, do as you will.” This means that you can’t intentionally or knowingly cause harm to another person. Because there are so many different forms of Wicca, there are dozens of different interpretations of the Rede. Some people believe it means you can’t hunt or eat meat, join the military, or even swear at the guy who took your parking spot. Others interpret it a bit more liberally, and some believe that the rule of “harm none” doesn’t apply to self-defense.
The Rule of Three
Many traditions of Paganism, including most variations of Wicca, believe in the Law of Threefold Return. This is essentially a karmic payback – anything you do comes back to you three times more intensely. If good attracts good, then guess what bad behavior brings you?
The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief
In the 1970s, a group of witches decided to assemble a cohesive set of rules for modern witches to follow. Seventy or so individuals from a variety of magical backgrounds and traditions got together and formed a group called the American Council of Witches, although depending on who you ask, they are sometimes called the Council of American Witches. At any rate, this group decided to try to assemble a list of common principles and guidelines that the entire magical community could follow. These principles are not adhered to by everyone, but are often used as a template in many sets of coven mandates.
In the 1950s, when Gerald Gardner was writing what eventually become the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, one of the items he included was a list of guidelines called the Ardanes. The word “ardane” is a variant on “ordain”, or law. Gardner claimed that the Ardanes were ancient knowledge that had been passed down to him by way of the New Forest coven of witches. Today, these guidelines are followed by some traditional Gardnerian covens, but are not often found in other NeoWiccan groups.
In many traditions, each coven is responsible for establishing its own set of bylaws or mandates. Bylaws may be created by a High Priestess or High Priest, or they may be written by a committee, depending on the rules of the tradition. Bylaws provide a sense of continuity for all members. They typically cover things like standards of behavior, principles of the tradition, guidelines for acceptable use of magic, and an agreement from members to abide by those rules. Again, these are rules which are applied to the group that creates them, but should not be held as a standard for people outside of this tradition.
Finally, keep in mind that your own sense of magical ethics should be a guideline to you as well – particularly if you’re a solitary practitioner who doesn’t have the history of a tradition to follow back on. You can’t enforce your rules and ethics on other people, though — they have their own set of laws to follow, and those may be different from your own. Remember, there’s no Big Pagan Council that sits and writes you a Bad Karma Ticket when you do something wrong. Pagans are big on the concept of personal responsibility, so ultimately it’s up to you to police your own behavior, accept the consequences of your own actions, and live by your own ethical standards.
The Goddess And The Horned God In Wicca
Neither evocation nor invocation is part of modern witchcraft, however, and white witches do not recognize any demonic figures in their religion. When we refer to the Goddess and her son-consort, the Horned God of Wicca, we are referring to the archetype or source energies of the feminine and masculine aspects of ultimate power. They are the creative female and male principles, acting not in opposition to each other but as complementary and necessary parts of a whole. All the named goddesses and gods in witchcraft represent the different qualities of these supreme forms, for example the goddesses of the hunt, or specific forms in different cultures.
There are, of course, variations within Wicca; some traditions emphasise the importance of the Goddess, while others regard the Horned God as her equal, with each assuming different aspects according to the season and ritual. For example, the Goddess may appear as the Earth or Moon deity, and her male counterpart as the Corn God or the Sun.